Keith Law Ranks Four Pirates in His Top 100 Prospects

When Keith Law ranked the Pirates as his eighth best farm system yesterday, he also noted that four players from the organization made his top 100 prospects list(subscription required). I mentioned that there could be a surprise and he didn’t disappoint. Law has Tyler Glasnow ranked sixth, Austin Meadows 16th and Josh Bell is 56th. That’s the highest we have seen the first two players, while it’s the lowest we have seen Bell. Saying that though, it’s just 5-6 spots away for each of the players, so they have all been in the same range.

The surprise listing should only be considered a surprise if you didn’t follow our draft coverage. Law has Pirates’ first round pick Kevin Newman, ranked 23rd overall. He has not made any other top 100 rankings, but Law loved him during the draft, rating him as the second best player n the entire class. He also has a much more optimistic scouting report for Newman, calling him “a no-doubt shortstop, with the agility, arm and hands to remain at the position”. He rates him as a plus runner(65 on the 20-80 scouting scale) with “good base stealing acumen”, which basically means that Law believes he could be a legit 30+ steals player, to go along with the fact he should also hit .300 and draw some walks.

While you can disagree with the high ranking, if Newman does end up as a player who gets on base, steal 30+ bases and stays at shortstop, then a 23rd ranking on this list could even be considered low.

One omission of note besides Jameson Taillon(who I’ll get back to), is that Harold Ramirez didn’t make Law’s list. Back in July, Law did a mid-season update and had Ramirez ranked 50th. That included players from the draft too, so it’s not as if there were a lot of additional players to consider for this updated list today. There are some new international players who signed, but also some players graduated from that mid-season list. Ramirez had an .836 OPS over 43 games in the Florida State League after those mid-season rankings were posted by Law. For comparison sake, the pitcher-friendly FSL was led by Garrett Cooper, who had a .792 OPS on the season. That’s 44 points lower than what Ramirez put up after the first list was released and Cooper is four years older than Ramirez.

You would think that would keep Ramirez on his new list and even give him a chance to move up, so it is an odd omission. Ramirez has had some questions about his shape in the past, but he showed up in great condition to the Pirates’ mini-camp last month, so that should help him stay on the field and help his overall game with better range, speed on the bases and we could also see him tap into some power.

Law did not have Taillon in his mid-season ranking and he wasn’t among the few names who just missed the top 50 either. With two years missed, you could see someone wanting to see something from Taillon before ranking him in the top 100 after such an absence. We however, saw excellent performances from Taillon in Extended Spring Training, then later he pitched in the Fall Instructional League after recovering from his hernia surgery. Taillon also shed 20 pounds this off-season and declared that he will be ready to go right when Spring Training starts in a week. So he is healthy, in better shape, and looking like a more polished pitcher, despite the time missed.

Only time will tell how he handles a full season of pitching, but Taillon should probably be in any top 100 prospects list due to his upside, which had him in the top 20 pre-injury.

  • Not sure if anyone reads Keith Law chats, the one today about his Top 100 list has a half-dozen Pirate mentions (it’s generally one every few chats)

  • Doesn’t make much sense that Law ranks the Pirates as 8th best farm system while at the same time he has the Pirates having the #6, #16,#23, & #56 prospects in top 100. To me, that equals a higher ranking overall. In this scenario, 8th best would only make sense if there were no quality prospects outside of the top 4, & in my opinion, that’s not the case with the Pirates. Oh well, doesn’t matter for anything, just doesn’t add up to me.

    • Difference between 8 and 4 really isn’t big enough to get upset about. Which is why if you read 5 lists from different sources, teams will vary in that range.

  • Yeah…you cannot put any stock in anything that Keith Law writes/says. Newman #23? I think he smoked a little green before he put out his top 100…

  • We pay attention to Pirates prospects, Law pays attention to MiLB. If anything, the omission of any players from his Top 100 list is a flaw in the methodology of listing and ranking players, and drawing a line at 100. Parsing the differences is something he has to do if he needs to make a list, but it has very little to do with players’ actual talent, or future.

  • When will the news break that Kevin Newman is Keith Law’s illegitimate son? I thought Newman was projected to be a high floor, low ceiling, no-power middle infielder. Am I wrong?

    • A lot of people think he is a serviceable shortstop, who is better suited for second base. I can’t remember anyone saying he is a no doubt MLB shortstop. Calling him a .300 hitter with walks and plus speed is also a stretch. If you took all of the scouting reports into consideration, you would probably end up with a .280 hitter at 2B, no power and 20 steals. That’s a big difference from what Law thinks

      • I don’t know, that seems low-end more than average.

        Law, FanGraphs, and BP all think he’ll stick at short and not to belabor the point, but those are three outlets that either have worked in the game or constantly have guys hired into the game.

        • Some people have him as a utility guy instead of a starter, so averaging them all out would get around what I said. If you just take the top predictions, then of course it would be higher. Same for the low predictions.

          • You’re talking about two different things. The utility camp isn’t simply talking defense.

            • Don’t overthink what I said. It’s just an average of all the scouting I’ve seen thrown together. You can literally find people who think he’s only a 2B and a bench player at best. Others think like Law and I’ve even seen exactly what I said. I tried to describe the middle ground of everything. Maybe if I literally looked at every single report it would be a little bit higher, but not by much. I can’t sit here and look up EVERY SINGLE report we have and average it out, I was just ballparking it for the sake of answering his comment. The point is that Law is on the optimistic side.

              • We’re still talking about two different things, like I said.

                • Well the conversation is over now. If the original person I was commenting to has any questions for me, I’ll be happy to continue

                  • John, I guess I’m just confused how anyoneーbased on what you saidーcould have this guy ranked as the #2 overall prospect. That would be like Mel Kiper ranking Laken Tomlinson(drafted by the lions last year) or some other above average guard as his #2. I realize we are dealing with 2 different sports and as a result perhaps my comparison is not analogically relevant; however, it just seems strange to rank a low upside guy so high…

                    • KLaw had Newman ranked #2 in last year’s draft prospects – not the #2 overall prospect.

                    • I understand that. I still find it strange that such a low upside guy can be the #2 ranked prospect in last year’s draft.

                    • “If the Pirates can unlock some of that strength that’s lost in his wide setup, however, he has upside well beyond that.”

                      That’s an extremely big “if”, considering the Pirates haven’t really managed to do that with any prospect thus far, but it would explain Law’s position.

                      I think it’s too easy to overrate a 17 yo toolshed dreaming about upside, given the likelihood of reaching that upside is probably <1% historically speaking. Law is betting on floor here, which I believe is more consistent with reality.

                    • he graduated from college at 17? Well a junior!

    • No, you’re right, and that’s exactly what justifies Law’s position (albeit arguably not the absolute ranking).

      With Newman’s contact ability (<10%K), he'd have to be a true-talent low BABIP hitter (<.300) *not* to flirt with a .300 batting average every year. Add in even average walk rates and that's a .350 OBP hitter.

      A shortstop that adds value on the bases and puts up league-average offense is an easy 2.5-3.0 WAR guy, which absolutely justifies a high ranking.

      Now if Law is wrong on that, if he's not a shortstop, then the ranking falls apart. But the same can be said about any other ranking as well. If you're wrong, you're wrong.

      • And then, I have read articles where he “cleaned up” on lesser competition in College and that those Cape Cod batting titles aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

        Time will tell, I guess, who’s scouting opinion is right and whose is wrong.

        Right now, it is all conjecture.

        • Absolutely! What makes scouting so tough – hell, baseball analysis in general – is that you almost always can find one way or another to spin even factual statistics.

          The Cape is the best wooden bat league in the country and typically skews toward pitcher-friendly. That’s good, right?! Look myopically at only those who won batting titles, and that looks much less than good.

          None of this will matter by June, though. At that point, he’ll have a couple hundred at bats against pro competition consistently better than what he saw in college and opinion on how and who he did his damage against there will be academic.

          • Hopefully it will be better by June than what his first go-around in the minors was…

          • Aside from everything, I really like the kids swing. I’m a nut for people having very little movement in their swing (I suppose Pujols is the prime example of what I love, although his hands start a little higher, but he drops them at load, actually McCutchen is probably a better example, without the wide stance), wide stance with a short step, and hands already in the load position before the pitch comes in. I’ve talked about this on other posts (See where I talk about Meadows). Kid seems very quick and short to the ball and with what you guys say about his plate patience, ability to drive to all fields, base running and hell even average defense, that seems like quite a decent prospect and one who is wayyyyyyyyyyy more polished than others we’re hoping for to break out.

            • Starling Marte is actually the guy I think of with the wide stance/no step setup. Barely does more than lift his front heel and set it right back down, but he’s special for how much drive he still produces off his back side, through his hips.

              Newman’s swing is geared for the exact type of hitter he is which is really all you can ask. I agree with Law about potential improvements, but not sure I trust the brass to start tweaking what already works.

              • I can see that NMR, I just didn’t compare the two because of all the flaunting Marte does with the bat pre pitch, but he has the hands in the correct position when the pitch comes in so I suppose a moot point.

    • Gee I remember when Pedro Alvarez was everyone’s illegitimate son.

  • Law has loved Newman from the start. This could be one of those things where he saw him once and Newman just dominated that day. I don’t know. I don’t know if anyone else sees Newman as what Law describes but I will settle for him just being able to stay at SS, post a .330 obp, and steal 15-20 bases with some gap power. That’s a pretty decent SS in today’s game.

    • Law saw him enough to move him into his top 15 at first, then move him to second overall later. Plus he has people who work for him(technically ESPN) and submit reports as well.

      • Must of been all those games that Newman spent tearing up the PAC-12, right? haha.

      • John, what do you think of his speed?

        • I’ve only seen him on video. 65 speed is pretty impressive, but sounds a little high. I would have said 60, but he gets the most out of it due to hustle and smarts

    • I don’t think Law’s ranking of Newman, or any other prospect comes from one game.

      • It does if that was the only time he saw him live. I’m sure he doesn’t have time to catch many guys 2,3,4 times.

  • So we have 9 players who have appeared in at least one top 100 this offseason: Glasnow, Taillon, Bell, Meadows, McGuire, Ramirez, Hanson, Tucker, and now Newman. That’s a lot of depth and doesn’t even include Diaz, Kuhl, and Hayes who must be close.

    • Diaz and Hayes were both mentioned as “just missed” players

      • And you reported the scout’s quote about Kuhl as possibly being our best pitching prospect. That’s a ton of depth–a full infield including the necessary 2 catchers and a utility middle infielder, 2/3 of an outfield, and 3/5 of a rotation. So a nice distribution of that talent too.

  • I’m pretty high on Newman as a baserunner, but even I’m not as high on him as a baserunner as Law is. I was thinking 15-20 SB with a lot of other extra bases taken and not many outs run into. His speed is fine, but even with his impressive smarts, I can’t see him having Marte- and Polanco-level success as a base stealer. He just doesn’t have the raw speed.

    • He didn’t specifically say 30+ steals. I just added up a 65 runner, who is smart on the base paths and gets on first base a lot between walks and singles, since he isn’t a power hitter. Those three things combined should easily add up to 30 steals a year, though you also have take into consideration how often he is given the green light to steal, which is out of his control.

  • I’m certain P2 has seen way more of Newman than Law has. Why do you think Law is so high on this guy?

  • I love Keith Law, but he was also one of the few who said Hanson would stick at SS, so there’s that?

    However, I DO hope he is right about Newman.

    • Hanson didn’t fail at short because of his raw tools, though, but because of consistency. I still think he could be a shortstop if he figured out the focus problems which led to all the routine errors.

    • Hanson has the physical tools to play shortstop well, so there is nothing wrong with saying he would stick at shortstop. You can’t assume a kid who was 19-21 when he played shortstop, wouldn’t be able to not overthink the routine plays. Hanson has incredible range and quickness, plus his arm was good enough for the position. He has all the physical tools to be an above average shortstop and that showed when he played second base, where he was considered the best in the International League. I personally saw him make at least two plays on the left side of the second base bag this year because he had the range and quickness to get there. When do you ever see a 2B make that play?

      • After some thought, I think that Hanson’s main problem was mental more than physical?

      • He never showed me that arm in his time in AA.

        • It matters what you were looking for. If you expected a strong arm, then no, you didn’t see it. But “good enough” isn’t exactly a glowing compliment, yet it’s what most scouts/experts agreed on with him. Omar Vizquel never had anything other than an average arm and below average as he got older, yet he made up with it due to hands & quickness. Hanson isn’t Vizquel in the field, because no one is, but Hanson has the quickness/hands to make up for the lack of strength.

          • Watching Hanson @ WV & Bradenton he just did not have the “actions” of a MLB SS to my eye:

            • In Bradenton, it could have been a matter of when you saw him. He had a disastrous start on defense and then pulled him from the team for a week and away from action because it was getting to him. He went on the back fields and worked with instructors on getting back to the finer points and clearing his head.

              I’ve seen players come back from that and look very mechanical in their actions and it’s done on purpose, basically going through a mental checklist instead of natural actions. Most times you don’t think about setting your feet, lining your body up to make the throw, stepping and making the throw, but they do it that way to slow them down, with the hopes of them getting proper mechanics and then speeding it up.

              He didn’t amount to anything, but I saw 3B Eric Avila go from one of the worst looking third baseman ever to an above average 3B within two months. After seeing that, I got the details of the process they go through to get them to slow down the game. I saw it with Elias Diaz and his throws during his first season at West Virginia as well.

      • Sounds a little like Ronny Cedeno

    • HANSON>NEWMAN — How is that math boy!